The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Told You I Wasn’t Joking [Even Though I’ve Just Done A Post To Prove It, Which Sort-Of Defeats The Point. Bugger]
November 24, 2014, 6:15 am
Filed under: Family, Fatherhood

If you don’t know what I’m going on about, you should read here and here.

If you came here for some planning, advertising or marketing stuff, then – apart from being bonkers – you would be much better off going here, here and here.

And if you accidentally found yourself on this blog, change your search engine immediately.

That’s it. For now. Ta-ra.

Comments Off on Told You I Wasn’t Joking [Even Though I’ve Just Done A Post To Prove It, Which Sort-Of Defeats The Point. Bugger]

Goodbye From Vera Lynn …
November 21, 2014, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment, My Fatherhood

So this is it, the end.

At least the end for now.

As the old bird in the picture above once sang, “we’ll meet again” … before adding “don’t know where, don’t know when” … though if I was to hazard a guess, apart from continuing to co-manage the Advertising Planning School On The Web [#apsotw], I’d say there’s definitely a good chance they’ll be a post when my son is born and I want to show him off.

So until then, thank you for all the laughs, lessons and insults over the past 8+ bloody years … have an amazing Christmas and may 2015 be an utterly epic year for all of us. I have a feeling it will be, after all, my son will be here.

And with that, here’s a little reminder why you should be glad my impending fatherhood is forcing me to disappear for a bit.

[In my defence, it was all lovely Marcus’ fault and you can find out why, here]

Christ almighty, how the hell do I still have employment after that?

Mind you, that’s not as bad as the fact that some of you watched it way back in 2007 and still came back for more. Mental.

For the record, I still have – and wear – that shirt, and even more shocking than that [at least for Northern] is it doesn’t have any military insignia on it at all.

Not one bit.


And on that bombshell, all that leaves me to say is thank you and goodbye … or maybe it’s au revoir? … who knows, I guess we’ll see.

Whatever it is, off I trot to experience a new, mad, scary, wonderful chapter in my life.


Wish me/him luck.


Shit Can Always Happen But So Can Great Things …
November 20, 2014, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

There’s a couple of people I know who are struggling with some major decisions in their life.

Some of them are almost paralysed by it … knowing they should act but fearing what might happen if they do.

All this is leading to is doubt, uncertainty stagnation and regret.

Of course big decisions need big considerations, but too often we end up focusing on what we might lose rather than also considering what we might gain.

I get it. I really do.

When I was deciding on whether to move to Australia, I was utterly conflicted.

A lot of things were going on in my life at that time so the easier option was definitely to stay in England.

And yet my heart – and my parents – felt it was something I should do.

I was so stressed out by the decision that, much to my parents amazement, I went to see a councellor.

In over an hour of conversation, there was one thing he said that especially helped.

While he acknowledged moving to Australia was a risk – especially for the reasons I was going to do it – he said the thing I had to remember was the greater the risk the greater the potential reward.

Of course that’s obvious and of course, that also highlighted how in my particular case, there was a relatively low potential for success … but in my quest to work out what to do, I’d lost sight of the possibilities that could occur if it all went well and that bit of clarity helped me make my decision.

For me, that decision was to move 12,000 miles away from my beloved family and see what might happen.

And what happened?

Well, based on the original reasons I went … it failed.

It didn’t fail immediately and I had an amazing journey along the way but based on the final outcome, it failed.

However for a billion different reasons, it changed my life for the better forever.


I cannot begin to cover all the amazing things I have experienced and discovered in my life because I took that first step.

To be quite honest, everything that has happened to me in the last 18 years can be traced back to that decision to go.

Every single thing.

The life I now enjoy would never – and I am not overestimating that – have happened had I let my mind only focus on the risk rather than the potential for reward.

That doesn’t mean my life would have been bad had I stayed in England, but it would certainly be very different and so I am forever grateful to my parents, friends and councillor who helped me make a balanced decision rather than a fear driven one.

So to the people I mentioned at the beginning of this post who are going through their own moment of indecision, I leave you a little poem.

It was given to me by a friend who was given it by their friend.

After 17 years of marriage their husband died.

He was 39.

She was on her own with a young child.

She didn’t know what to do but she knew she had to do something.

It helped her. I hope it helps you.

Why Your First Experience Is The Best Insight …
November 19, 2014, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

I am a massive believer in understanding associative memory.

I’m not as extreme as Clotaire Rapaille … but I do believe that if you uncover someone’s first experiences with a particular situation, environment, product or category, it can give you a clearer understanding of what the individuals real relationship is with that situation.

There are many people who don’t subscribe to this point of view and that’s fine, but recently a friend showed me something that – in a very roundabout way – highlights why looking for someone’s frame of reference may give us more understanding about their actions and behaviour than the classic ‘insight’ model, favoured by so many.

[For the record, I am not dissing insight. I am a massive advocate of it and believe in it’s importance and value … however the way many people/brands go about identifying it [not to mention, what they actually classify as an insight] is both bewildering and embarrassing]

Have a look at this.

What do you see?

If you said a naked woman being held by a man, then this would indicate you are probably over the age of 12.

For the record, if you said a naked woman being held by a man that is sexually stimulating to you, this this would indicate you need help. Fast.

The reason I say that is because my friend – a psychologist – told me that when he shows this vase to young children, they see something entirely different.

Because young children don’t have any associative memory for ‘intimate couples’, they see dolphins.

Nine dolphins.

No, I can’t see them either – not even one of them – but the point is, while our associations can evolve, if you look for where they began, you might get more insight into how to fundamentally change attitudes and behaviour than anything ‘big data’ can tell you.

In short, it may be the difference between infiltrating culture and playing only within the confines of the category.

Of course, it’s not easy, but then anything worth something, rarely is.

Don’t Be A Mick Hucknell …
November 18, 2014, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

Once upon a time, I lent a friend some money.

It wasn’t a huge amount, but it was enough to be noticed and felt.

The friend was going through a lot of troubles at the time so I was very happy to do it.

Time passed and nothing was mentioned.

Nothing at all.

But thanks to the power of social media, I was able to see that the lifestyle they were leading didn’t really demonstrate any level of sacrifice.

Nights out.



They all were maintained even though the money they borrowed – and it was very clearly a loan, not a gift – was never returned.

I must admit this led to a lot of animosity from me.

Especially when I saw they were enjoying vacations that far exceeded anything I had ever had both in terms of location and duration.

But this is not about my choice of friend, this is about priorities and perspective.

You see, I know my friend would never want to upset me.

If I was to ask him any of the following questions – prior to this situation – I know they would have answered with an emphatic “no”:

+ Would you ever knowingly want to upset a friend?

+ Would you ever borrow money from a friend and never pay them back?

+ Would you ever want to show you are not worthy of being trusted?

And this is what’s fascinating … because as much as I genuinely believe they would mean it when they said it, when they found themselves in their situation, they did the complete opposite.

Of course they wouldn’t see it that way.

Instead of viewing their behaviour as ‘unfair, selfish or uncaring’, they would regard it as simply ‘doing what their family needed’.

Of course, if they were using the money to pay their rent or put food on the table, I doubt there’d be a single person in the World that would challenge that … but in my friends case, it appears ‘what their family needed’ was to maintain a lifestyle they felt they were entitled to, either because that’s how they were raised or how they used to live.

In other words, they would argue: how can it be unfair when all we’re doing is maintaining our normal standards?

Which gets to the heart of what I’m trying to say in this post.

Regardless what we may think is ‘convention’ … regardless what people may say ‘they would do’ when faced with certain circumstances … when faced with the realities of hypothesis, people’s choices and decisions end up being far more heavily influenced/justified by self-interest – whether they’re conscious of that or not – so if you blindly make plans based purely on what people say ‘will happen’, then you have to prepare yourself for the potential of disappointment.

Remember that next time you’re in a focus group.

And Now The End Is Near …
November 17, 2014, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment, Fatherhood

So this week is the last week of this blog.

Probably not for ever, but it could be.

That might mean nothing to you [other than sheer, utter, relief], but to me it’s a big, big thing.

You see in the almost 9 years of writing this rubbish, it has given me a lot of stuff.

Not just an endless stream of headaches and insults … but also a bunch of new and clever friends … a load of interesting opinions and thoughts and even the occasional moment of delusional brilliance.

Not bad for something I started to simply give me 2 minutes a day to think about stuff that didn’t involve all the usual advertising bollocks you get caught up in.

But now, 9 years later, it might be time to hang up the keyboard.

Emphasis on ‘might’.

I should point out this is not because I’ve run out of things to say – because let’s be honest, I’ve been repeating the same 6 subjects for at least 7 years – but because in a couple of weeks, my son will be born.

Holy Fuck.

To be honest, I don’t know whether I’m ready.

And I certainly don’t know what to expect.

In some ways, I’ve only just come to terms with the fact it’s happening.

No, I’m being serious.

It was only when we actually created his bedroom did it start to sink in.

Before that, I could have easily conned myself into thinking my wife had simply been eating a lot of her amazing cakes.

But she hasn’t, she’s going to be delivering our first child.

Our son.

When I think about it, I become unbelievably emotional.

I was recently on a flight and a documentary called, ‘The Secret Life Of Children’ came on.

Within 2 minutes, I was sobbing.

Not out of fear [I think], but emotion … because despite knowing where babies come from for quite a long time now [allegedly!], only now do I really appreciate how amazing it all is.

Which has led to me facing a whole host of conflicting emotions and questions.

Will I be a good father?

Will I do the right thing?

Will I teach him what is important?

Just how messy will he make my/our obsessively tidy house?

It’s all a total head-fuck to be honest and that’s before I even think about the pressure of finalising a name for the little sod.

But what’s also interesting is what hasn’t really crossed my mind.

I never doubted Jill would be an amazing mother.

I’ve known that since the moment I met her.

But since we found out on April 1st, this fact has been reiterated to me every single day.

Quite frankly, I’m in awe of how she has handled this pregnancy.

Graceful. Calm. Radiant. Beautiful.

She has helped me understand what it really means when people say pregnant women ‘blossom’.

In the past, I used to think it was a euphemism for ‘get big’ … but it isn’t.

It’s not even a polite way of saying that their cheeks are flushed due to the increase in body temperature.

No, it’s more than that … it’s a change in how they are.

You can’t quite put your finger on it, but you feel it is the final stage of their evolution … where the birth of a child makes them ‘whole’.

It’s weird, I can’t quite explain it but I do know that ‘blossom’ is the most perfect word to describe how they are.

The other thing that hasn’t really crossed my mind is his ‘health’.

Maybe I’m utterly stupid, but I am utterly confident he will be a healthy, bouncing, baby boy.

And yet I know scans can’t identify everything.

And I’ve seen friends go through terrible situations with their children.

But for some reason it has not crossed my mind.

Not once.

It could be because I don’t want to think about it.

It could be that having seen the pain that Andy and his wife went through with Bonnie [which thankfully all turned out well], I don’t want to invite any negativity in my head.

But I haven’t given it a second thought.

As I said, maybe that’s stupid.

Maybe I’m setting myself up for trouble in the future … but while I have given ample consideration to the legacy I want to give my son, I have not given any practical consideration to the state of his health.

With all the madness that has surrounded me – and us – with the impending birth of our first child, one thing has been a constant beacon of joy to me.

My Mum.

Seeing and hearing the excitement in her face and voice about her first grandchild has been wonderful.

To be honest, if I’d seen how happy it would make her, I’d of done it years ago.

But she never placed pressure on me to do it. She knew it was something we needed to decide, not something others could try and dictate.

And for that I thank her. Again.

So as we enter this final week, I apologise in advance for the sentimental tone of the subsequent 4 days of posts.

As I said, maybe this blog will continue at some point in the future – possibly with copious amounts of pictures of my little boy with statements about “how advanced he is for his age” – but if it doesn’t, I want to say thank you to all of you for absolutely everything.

Even the insults.

It’s been a pleasure.

Talk Is Cheap …
November 14, 2014, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

One thing that really annoys me about planners is that we’re incredibly good at spouting a whole bunch of theories but rarely put our money where our mouth is at.

OK, what annoys me more is when we spout theories that have already been used and known for decades, but because we use ‘cool sounding names’, we act like we invented it.

Behavioural economics anyone?

Anyway, I get super-frustrated by people who spout theory … do nothing about it … and then, when something seems to prove their point of view, act like they were Nostradamus or something.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely guilty of it and I’m certainly not denouncing the importance of thinking about things … but if we’re not prepared to find ways to undeniably prove it’s validity, we are undermining ourselves and our discipline.

Of course there are many reasons this happens.

Lots of us are lazy. We rarely are given the time or the money to prove something. We all like running after the next new, new thing rather than take a moment to see if we truly understand and appreciate the old, old thing. And – if I’m being honest – our industry doesn’t really like being too ‘academic’ about stuff because we believe it could limit our creative freedom going forward.

Is that true?

Possibly … but working in China – a land with more rules and obstacles than almost any other major advertising market on earth – I’m of the view these things actually force you to be more creative, rather than less.

Anyway, the reason I’m saying all this is that I read an amazing story about a Professor who was desperate to prove his theory was correct to a bunch of medical practitioners.

Back in 1983, there was a conference in Las Vegas for the American Urological Association.

Professor Giles Brindley, a British physiologist, had been working on a project to prove phenoxybenzamine – an alpha-blocking smooth muscle relaxant – could help men who were suffering from erectile disfunction.

Despite having presented numerous papers at scientific conferences, the urological World was deeply skeptical about his findings with one American specialist suggesting that proof would require something “beyond charts, tables and graphs” … so with that in mind, Professor Giles – who was aged 57 at the time – devised a way to give undeniable proof he was right.

To cut a very long story short [which you can read here] he presented his key note speech by announcing to the audience that prior to getting on stage, he had injected his penis with his treatment, then – without a word of warning – he dropped his trousers to proudly present his massive erection [not my words, the words of an attendee] to the shocked crowd.

To really ram home the point [not the best choice of words there], he then walked around the audience offering them the chance to prod and poke his genitals to see how firm it was.

Given these are a couple of the quotes from DR’s in attendance, I would say he was successful in his quest:

“I had been wondering why Brindley was wearing sweatpants,” says Dr. Arnold Melman, chief of urology at New York’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine, “… suddenly I knew. It was a big penis, and he just walked around the stage, showing it off.”

Dr. Irwin Goldstein – a Boston University urologist – said, “He walked down the aisle and let us touch it. People couldn’t believe it wasn’t an implant.”

Now I am not suggesting we suddenly go to such extreme lengths to prove our point … especially given we work in advertising which means we should never [hopefully] have to show our privates to explain a theory … however it would be nice if we went to some lengths to prove them.

We work in an industry where talk is very, very cheap so if we want to truly get the respect that our egos crave, then proving our theories should be regarded with greater importance than simply having theories … even if it takes years to finally be able to prove we were right.

As I’ve said many a time, anything is easy if you don’t have to do it or prove it.